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Social Support Eases Caregiver Stress in Kansas City

Here is a great article I found that I wanted to share. The original article can be found at http://www.alzinfo.org/alzheimers-caregiving.asp#3.  If you have any questions, or need help for an aging senior, please visit  www.kchomecare.com.

How can social support ease caregiver stress?

Two important contributors to caregiver stress are lack of social support and the caregiver’s assessment of the behavior of the patient with Alzheimer’s.

Social and family support. Caregivers who lack sufficient or appropriate social support from family and friends are often put under heightened stress. Family conflicts, isolation and loneliness further exacerbate the stress of caregivers. While social support may not affect the primary stress caused by the disease, it can change the caregiver’s response to the illness. Feeling supported by family and friends can improve psychological responses to stress and boost the caregiver’s sense of well-being.

The relentless downward course of Alzheimer’s disease can have devastating effects on the structure and functioning of the family as well. The person with Alzheimer’s gradually relinquishes his or her previous role in the family, and other family members must step in to fill the gaps. In addition, other family members may not recognize that a husband or wife who acts as a primary caregiver has now lost a major source of social support — the spouse on whom they previously relied.

When talking about improving social support, the quality of the support is much more important than the number of people who are available to the caregiver or the frequency of contact with members of the caregiver’s social network. Family conflict about how and where it is best to care for the patient can be can be very stressful for the primary caregiver. Many caregivers feel resentful of other family members for not providing them with the kind of help they want, although they may not know how to ask for that help or accept help when it is offered.

Caregiver appraisal. Another source of stress is sometimes referred to as caregiver appraisal. If the caregiver misunderstands the cause of the patient’s behavior and interprets it as intentional rather than due to the illness, the caregiver may react with anger, feel rejected or become depressed. If other family members do not understand the disability of the patient, they may criticize the reactions of the caregiver rather than be supportive.

Caregiving, in and of itself, can become tedious, frustrating and isolating. An important aspect of helping the Alzheimer’s caregiver is to make caregivers and other family members aware of the availability and value of formal support. Caregivers can benefit from formal support services such as in home respite or day care programs for the patient and support groups for themselves in conjunction with the informal support of family and friends.

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